Mayweather and McGregor’s 8-ounce boxing gloves have started a science fight

Trash talk has been a fundamental part of the run-up to the August 26 match between undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather and Mixed Martial Arts champion Conor McGregor. A few weeks ago, Mayweather turned his attention to the weight of their fight gloves on social media. He proposed the pair battle while wearing gloves that weigh 8 ounces each, instead of the usual 10-ouncers required for their weight class, which is 154 pounds. McGregor’s response was positive (and obscenity laden), and the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which is sanctioning the bout, has granted the opponents a one-time exception to use lighter gloves. What this means, however, is a topic of much debate in the boxing community. Those 2 ounces have caused a big stir, especially in a time when the scientific data about brain injuries in sports grows more troubling.

“They’re supposed to use 10-ounce gloves,” says Larry Lovelace, president of a group called the Association of Ringside Physicians, which advocates for the safety of fighters in combat sports. “There’s not a lot of scientific research to say that’s where the cutoff should be. But, the question that I have is, why is Nevada going to go against their own regulations and rules?”

The ARP has issued a statement questioning the Nevada commission’s decision and calling for more scientific research on whether or the Commission’s glove guidelines actually benefit the fighters’ overall health during and after the match.

There is no national governing body that regulates boxing, and the rules about gloves vary from state to state. The Nevada commission’s rule NAC 467.427, section 5, subsection a states that a fighter “at 135 pounds or less must wear gloves which weigh 8 ounces during the contest or exhibition.”

Section b continues: “At more than 135 pounds must wear gloves which weigh 10 ounces during the contest or exhibition, except that an unarmed combatant weighing in at more than 135 pounds but not more than 147 pounds may wear gloves which weigh 8 ounces during the contest or exhibition if both unarmed combatants agree to wear gloves of that weight.”

It’s all about the hands

Boxing experts will tell you that the original intent behind sheathing boxers’ hands was to protect them from breaking. Greek gladiators used to wrap leather straps around their fists. The Marquess of Queensberry Rules, published in England in 1867 and one of the earliest recorded rulebooks on boxing, demanded gloves be “fair-sized” but didn’t specify a weight or physical dimensions.